Young people are the future

Inspire them to shine!

New Beginnings

Good morning on this beautiful Spring day from Shekinah. My name is Yvonne Joye and in this season of new beginnings it is apt that I too am beginning something new; namely this weekly “Shekinah Blog” and overall promotion of what Shekinah does.

So, what exactly does Shekinah do?

Shekinah is a training programme for adults, teachers, parents, youth workers or anyone who wishes to work with young people; it is for individuals who wish to facilitate youth retreats, wellness days, days of affirmation and overall youth ministry. It is for those of us who wish to learn and achieve new levels of awareness of young people so as to engage with them in a meaningful and relevant way.

We can talk about youth in the generic but our youth is not generic; it is made up of individuals, each with their unique talents, ambitions, worries and fears. There is no one formula that reaches everyone and the courses at Shekinah recognise this. Shekinah looks to art, drama, role-play, conversation, dialogue, ice-breakers and fun as a means of communicating. This communication serves not just young people’s understanding of others but most importantly their understanding of themselves. Those who come to Shekinah leave Shekinah with a whole new skill-set; they can now enter a room of young people with a new understanding of young people, an ability to effectively communicate with young people and an enriched comprehension of what it is to be a young person today. Real communication underscores every meaningful relationship whether that relationship be with self or others; Shekinah identifies this and wholly works with those who train to achieve this.

So who am I in all of this?

Well, I am a graduate of Shekinah, completing my certificate in youth facilitation and spirituality in 2017. Indeed, I am hoping to complete my diploma next year. However, with a degree in Sociology, I have worked as a facilitator for over 20 years in difference guises from pre-marriage courses to support groups to youth retreats.

In my work with young people, Shekinah has equipped me with a tool-box of skills, where I can now go out and create a space that affords “safe vulnerability” for young people, where students are able to find their voice and voice it, where everyone is listened to, respected, encouraged and validated and where every young individual discovers an ear for listening, a forum for understanding and a sanctuary for questioning.

So please, begin with me on this beautiful Spring day, the discovery of Shekinah. Through this weekly blog, I hope to provoke thoughts, reflections and new beginnings. We talk much about the challenges of our young people, the hardships of our young people and the mental health of our young people. Well why not tackle all that? Why not help them with all that? We worry much about our young in this ever-evolving world with ever-evolving technologies, but with the right tools, the right communication and the right education in Shekinah – we can stop worrying and start helping.


Yvonne Joy


Last Saturday, 13 May 2017, I graduated from St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth with my Certificate in Spirituality (Youth Retreat Facilitation). It was a sweet day and a surprisingly proud moment for me.

I say surprisingly because when I first commenced the Shekinah course last October 2016, I guess I really did not know what to expect. I had done some practical retreat work, working with children and young people from the ages of 12 to 18 but in doing so I felt I lacked something. I felt that to be the best youth facilitator, I needed more insight, more education and more guidance into that work. It is work I hugely enjoy but its value, power and relevance cannot be underestimated and I felt I need better equipment to meet the challenges. The Shekinah course provided me with that.

My first session was on a Saturday in early October. I mumbled a little about it being a Saturday, but if the truth be told, it was the best day to attend as it did not impact on my usual weekly activities. When I sat down on that first morning of that first Saturday, the opening words of our leader was to tell each of us to relax, that this was a day for ourselves and to cherish it as such. And just like that I knew I was in the right place at the right time.

Saturdays with Shekinah would become my routine. Between October and December I would attend seven sessions of the course at the state-of-the-art Margaret Aylward Centre in Glasnevin and another three between January and April. I would have three essays to complete and three practicals to administer.

I never anticipated back in October entering into winter, the joy and light that these Saturdays would bring. Though those participating in the course with me came from different walks of life and owned different motivations for doing the course, we all came together in sharing and believing in Shekinah’s ethos, worth and importance. Far from seeing my Saturdays as grudgingly given to education, I saw those Saturdays as the highlight of my week.

The course consisted of theory, talks, demonstrations and discussion. There was fun, drama, creativity and so much laughter. The ice-breakers and the meditation though quite different in their guises were hugely instrumental in relaxing us as a group and connecting us as individuals. I felt safe here and I felt safe with the people around me. This is what Shekinah champions – an environment where dialogue, exchange and discourse is easy, un-impinged and that word again – safe!

 This is the atmosphere I seek to create for the young people I work with. I want to relay what Shekinah relayed to me, that each retreat day is a day set aside from which every individual has the opportunity to benefit. It is a day like no other. With Shekinah, I discovered the space to connect with myself, something hugely invaluable to me now in going forth and connecting with others.

We concluded our last session in April sitting outside on the sun-drenched terrace of the Margaret Aylward Centre. To host it there on such a glorious day is another illustration of the flexibility and spontaneity of this course and of the people who run it. There was a harmony and a quiet pride amongst us. We had come through our essay writing, completed our practicals and we were coming to our journey’s end. It was a bittersweet moment.

Working with young people is what I want to do. Creating a space for them to journey from their heads to their hearts is what I want to facilitate.  From the Shekinah course I now have those tools. It was a year that delivered more than I could ever have expected. And my sincere wish is that those with whom I will work in the future will benefit and thrive from all that Shekinah has taught and impressed on me.

Yvonne Joye    



Reflection Exercise

Gimmick or Genius?

In today’s society unless something can be seen, smelt, tasted or touched its existence is questionable. With this in mind how can one visualise the gifts of the Holy Spirit? Enter the ‘Salt Jar’ which is both gimmick and genius…


not in equal measures, the genius of the ‘Salt Jar’ far outweighs its ‘gimmicky-ness’ (if that’s a passable word?)

I was first introduced to the genius of the ‘Salt Jar’ back in the autumn of 2012. At the time I was based in the parish of Dunboyne as a ‘parish pastoral worker’ and decided to sign up for the Shekinah retreat giving course which took place at that time in All Hallows in Drumcondra.

The course, overseen by Sr Jennifer and Fr John, in its essence provides training to the participants giving them a firm foundation, and solid skill set, which allows them to conduct school retreats as part of a retreat team. (I say firm foundation and solid skill set since education and learning around giving retreats is continual and lifelong and hopefully our skill set will be developed and added to over the years…the day we think we can conduct the perfect retreat is perhaps the day we need to step aside and leave it to someone else!?) The course also offers a ‘mind blowing’ insight into the world of young adults with many and varied inputs from professionals ranging from music, art therapy, psychology and much more.

The ‘Salt Jar’ is what it says it is; a jar full of salt! The salt however is coloured by the ‘miracle’ of chalk.

(Salt Jar used during a Confirmation ceremony)

 (Tool kit!)

Those on retreat can make their own coloured salt by simply rubbing a stick of chalk in salt, the salt breaks the chalk down producing coloured salt in the process.

This part time author and sporadic retreat giver likes to mix the salt and chalk either the night before…(usually last thing before bed…or in the days prior to the retreat…which would be a ‘miracle’ in itself) by using mortar & pestle and hand held blender, as in the picture above, the salt is then returned to the commercial ‘tubs’ from whence they came ready for use.

I just feel that with limited time in a full day of events it frees up time and reduces stress levels?

In the parish of Templemore, Killea and Clonmore, Co Tipp where I am based as curate we have Confirmation every 2nd year so this has been my second experience outside of the Shekinah Course and its practical component. We have 4 schools so conduct retreats over 3 days (the 2 smaller schools come together for their retreat). Place of retreat is vitally important and we are blessed here in the parish to have The McAuley Community Centre a wonderful resource centre and parish office gifted to the community 5 years ago by the Mercy Sisters. This year word of our retreats has spread and we have had 3 visiting schools.

Each retreat day finishes with the retreatants receiving a ‘feedback’ form which they fill out in the following days.

They say the ‘proof of the pudding is in the eating’ and the Salt Jar’ activity always ranks highly in the ‘what did you like best section’…highly but NOT first…it’s truly amazing how our young people still crave silence and companionship with Jesus; Sr. Helen Kennedy conducts a truly amazing guided meditation where, in the spirit of St Ignatius Loyola, there are invited to place themselves in the Gospel scene with Jesus. They have a wonderful capacity to do this and do it so well.

Someone once said ‘Imagination is evidence of the Divine’…perhaps the future is bright?

The gifts of The Holy Spirit (in a jar) for all the world to see!

Wisdom, Knowledge, Understanding, Courage, Reverence, Right Judgement and Awe & Wonder in the presence of God.


About Shekinah

Shekinah is a training programme for adults who wish to facilitate youth retreats or other youth ministry programmes.

The Shekinah course ethos is rooted in in scripture and the message of Jesus but with a profoundly practical interpretation to help Shekinah graduates reach new levels of awareness to engage better with the youth of today.

Shekinah is a Hebrew word that means ‘the light of God’s presence’. In Jewish and Christian theology Shekinah is the glory of the divine presence, conventionally represented as light or interpreted symbolically as a divine feminine aspect.

Young people seek out role models from their peers, siblings, parents and grandparents, an effective retreat team ideally embraces all age groups and backgrounds to best model the reality of the Church as a community.  The methodology and tenor of Shekinah is deeply influenced by the living pedagogy and practice of St John Bosco, founder of the Salesians and patron saint of young people.

The Story of Shekinah

Shekinah was started in 2005 by Jennifer Perkins (a Salesian Sister). The course was developed in response to a shortage of traditional school retreat personnel and teams. The aim was to provide interested adults of any age and background an opportunity to gain professional accreditation in youth retreat facilitation skills and to better engage with young people in their faith journey.


  • I am happy and feel blessed to have had the opportunity to do this course.  I have learned a great deal and have found it all very beneficial, both from a parenting point of view and in my work with young people.  (A Parent of Teenagers)
  • The course provided so many methodologies for interacting with and facilitating young people using drama, music, film, art, small group interactions, ice-breakers and much more (Youth Minister)   
  • The many presentations gave me a real insight into issues that were unfamiliar to me, even though I was a teenager not so long ago.(A student of Theology)
  • The Shekinah course provided me with skills and resources that helped me be a better teacher. (RE Teacher)
  • The course gives a firm foundation and a solid structure for engaging with young people.  I was able to introduce meditation into the parish and we have also used audio-visuals in various liturgies which have enhanced the liturgical life of the parish and are popular with young and old. (A Parish Priest)
  • Pope Francis often mentions the joy of the Gospel when he talks about young people.  The Shekinah course inspired me to help young people recognise and live that joy in their busy lives.  (Chaplain) 


St. Patrick’s College Maynooth is the certifying body for accreditation of the course. Both the diploma and certificate courses are approved by

the National Framework for Qualifications (NFQ)


Practical experience

Diploma students must organize their own placement (4 retreat days in school/parish) 2 of these day will be supervised. 

The certificate course requires students to undertake 3 days of practical retreats during their training.  The practical retreats take place in the following location:

  • The Margaret Aylward Centre Glasnevin Dublin 11, owned by the Holy Faith Sisters.
  • These retreats are organised from Northside schools adjacent to the retreat centres by the programme directors. 




Retreats have been part of the Post-Primary Irish landscape for many years. Like the school system of education they have, over time, changed to respond to the rapidly changing needs of contemporary Irish youth.  Many young people are no longer church going and their values are not influenced by the Church’s teachings – of which they may be largely uninformed.  Moral and Spiritual formation frequently takes place through peer re-enforcement and the overwhelming influence of the media.  Young people are exposed at a very early age, to a deluge of information and intercommunication through the internet and social networking, all of which can militate against the development of their critical faculties and their ability to discern the deeper meaning and truths of life.

In the light of the above, there is a generation of young people who are predominantly disaffected from the Church and who do not see it as relevant to their lives.  This raises the question with regard to the function of school retreats.

The Shekinah Youth Retreat Facilitation programme attempts to answer this question by taking up the call for a “New Evangelisation”.  It strives to communicate the perennial joy to of the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, as a radical encounter with grace that opens a door to the action of the Holy Spirit in the life of the young person.  The spirit is the one who seeks only that they have life and have it in all its fullness.  Therefore the Shekinah methodology begins with the recognition that Christ, the light who enlightens all people (Jn1), is already active in the life of the young person.  The Youth Retreat Facilitator co-operates with this action of the Holy Spirit by inviting the young person to discover the presence and action of Christ in the context of his or her life.  In this regard, the School Retreat Day complements the Religious Education and Catechetical programmes already taking place within the school.

The Shekinah methodology seeks to give young people an experience of the attractiveness of the Good News.  The retreat therefore aims to be an insightful, reflective and enjoyable day for them.  While it may challenge the young people to think more deeply about the place of spirituality, faith and God in their lives, it may also contest their perceived ideas about God and the Church.  This is done in a gentle encouraging and compassionate manner.  In the words of St. Francis de Sales “kindness wins more hearts that cold logic and that one catches far more flies with a spoonful of honey than a barrel of vinegar. “

Faithful to the Gospels and to Catholic Teaching, the Shekinah Retreat Facilitation Programme aims to give young people an understanding of God and of Church where they encounter a listening ear, affirmation, respect and compassion.  On each retreat day the retreat facilitator strives to be the face of God and of the Church, conscious that this may be a rare experience for young people at this stage of their lives.  It is hopes that this approach reveals an aspect of Church that is attractive, joyful, loving and caring.   Many adults today testify that such positive retreat experiences are remembered for years to come. The National Directory for Catechesis in Ireland, Share the Good News states that “young people who discover the real meaning of the Church, as life lived together with Jesus Christ in love of God and loving service of others, will carry that understanding with them into adult life.” (pg 159)

“Preach as you go, use words if necessary. “  These words attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, illustrate the important opportunities for school retreats to provide occasions to creatively proclaim the Good News of God’s love and compassion.  It is this knowledge of God’s mercy and love that inspires each one to return home to self and to God.  This message is the basis and core of Christian faith.   When preparing retreat material for young people disaffected from the Church, it is wise to listen to the words of St. Paul (1Cor3:2) “I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger.  And you still aren’t ready.” (New English Translation).  This catechetical model gives focus to retreat facilitators engaging with non Church going young people today.

The Shekinah Youth Retreat Facilitation methodology has been tested and chosen because it engages well with 21st Century youth.  Its style and content has been sanctioned by School Principals, School Chaplains and teachers of Religious Education.   Accredited by St. Patrick’s Pontifical University, Maynooth, this training programme is deeply influenced by both the Salesian and Franciscan pedagogy which has served the Church for hundreds of years.  It is a pedagogy which calls each one to be realistically attentive to the signs of the times, convinced that God manifests God’s will through the demands of time and place.  God also speaks through the young people of today.  The Shekinah methodology therefore calls for initiative and a well-balanced and creative approach that is in tune with contemporary issues in the lives of young people.  Such attentiveness to the needs of young people will continue to determine Shekinah’s catechetical response.    




Life is Complicated

“It’s not straight-forward”, “It’s complicated” “You don’t understand”

Some of the modern plaintive of modern youth from modern life. Yet a generation ago, the same refrain could be heard and so too for the generation before that; simply put - life isn’t straight-forward and life is complicated. However, when it comes to understanding, there is always a path to understanding.  Understanding is wholly manageable and achievable and is the backbone of our work at Shekinah.

We live in a very PC society where we strive to become all-inclusive, all-equal and all-accepting. Yet, the irony is that society has never been more judgemental. We encourage our youth to talk, to be transparent, to be true themselves but if it was easy, we wouldn’t hear that it’s hard. At Shekinah we train to understand, to connect and to reach past the challenges that threaten the transparency and truth of our youth.

We say the real world isn’t like the movies but in essence the real world owns all the same drama; deductions are deduced from a dearth of facts, glee is gleaned from an abundance of gossip and hurtful put-downs come disguised as hollow compliments.

The navigation of the rough terrain of school life, work life, social pressure, peer pressure and so much more besides needs a compass like no other. This should not be a solo journey.

Our youth is so very relevant, and our engagement with them must be too.  

How do we ask anyone to be true when honesty can be misjudged? How do we address vulnerability when it’s deemed not safe to express it? And how is inner contentment secured when the power of comparison undermines it?

This is Shekinah’s remit; equipping people to deal meaningfully, relevantly and beneficially with young people. To help them overcome their challenges, confront their vulnerabilities and achieve their ambitions.

As parents, as adults, as teachers, it is easy to scream annoyance, hurtle demands and revert to the generation gap but Shekinah teaches another way. Shekinah paves the path to understanding our youth, because despite the open windows of social media and over-sharing, no one truly knows what goes behind closed doors.

And life is complicated.

Something To Believe In

Anita Garvey: "As a Guidance Counsellor in secondary schools for over 10 years, I have witnessed first hand the dwindling role that religion has in young people's lives. Any suggestion of praying around worries or concerns or looking to their faith for support in their time of need, was usually met with a quizzical look. What was obvious to me, however, was the increasing need in our teenagers to have something to believe in outside of themselves, to have a sense of a deeper meaning, and a knowledge of the great support that God could and does offer them in their lives. How to help them to realise this was an ever-growing question in my profession.

When I came across the Shekinah course, I felt it captured everything I needed to not only connect youth with themselves in a positive and meaningful way, but hopefully to engage them with their faith also. The elements of adolescent psychology, theology and social and personal development were all delivered in a very practical way which I could easily apply to my work with young people. I immediately began to integrate what I learned into the classroom and in my one to one exchanges with students. It felt like I had acquired a new tool belt with effective results!

While there's no doubt this course has helped me in my profession, it has also helped me personally. It has helped me in my own faith development and I so enjoyed the Saturdays spent learning more about God and Jesus and improving my personal relationship with them. A course like Shekinah is beneficial on so many levels but most of all in its aim to connect young people with their faith, an aim that cannot be undervalued."

Youth Matters

Young people face a challenging world!

Understanding them, their attitude and environment is a skill in itself. With the Shekinah ethos, a relevant knowledge base awaits through training and personal spiritual growth. Shekinah offers practical skills in engagement with young people, problem solving, personal development and social science. The learning outcomes offer a rich opportunity for professional enhancement and personal fulfillment.

Benefits of the Shekinah Courses 

  • Official certification
  • Professional confidence in youth ministry
  • Colleague Network
  • Practical tools to manage youth work




“It’s not straight-forward”, “It’s complicated” “You don’t understand”


Good morning on this beautiful Spring day from Shekinah. My name is Yvonne Joye and in this season of new beginnings it is apt that I too am beginning something new; namely this weekly “Shekinah Blog” and overall promotion of what Shekinah does.

So, what exactly does Shekinah do?


On the 4th of July 2017, I celebrated the second anniversary of my priestly ordination. It is five years since I completed the Shekinah Youth Retreat Training Course.


Yvonne Joy